Books went flying down to the ground. Screams filled the dining room. My heart skipped a beat as I quickly assessed the situation for injuries and damages. You know that feelings when you aren’t so sure if all your kids are alright?
Realizing that nobody was hurt I moved on to understanding what had happened. Two boys had just happened. Two lively, energetic and playful boys had struck a bookshelf with a soccer ball knocking down books and shattering a flower vase.
Our family rules are clear about balls. Outdoors or in the playroom, that’s it. The books mixed with water, glass and droopy flowers all over the floor made it clear as to why we have that rule in the first place.
Rules get broken when children are growing.
Limits get tested and boundaries pushed. These are signs of growing children. Children that are experimenting and discovery what life is all about. Sometimes these mistakes or broken rules are not so easy to deal with for us parents. Sibling squabbles, breaking a bed, slamming a door, talking back these are unhelpful behaviors commonly done out of hasty judgement and poor impulse control. These are also behaviors that can push buttons and lead to resentment.
A very important step to take after correcting misbehavior
It is very important to set clear boundaries and limits with your children, and to offer guidance when they make mistakes. When you consistently respond and provide guidance your child learns to count on you.
There is an important step in this learning process though that is often overlooked.
When children misbehave, or make a mistake, we are very quick to feel embarrassed, get angry, or jump to teaching a lesson. If you have been focusing on positive parenting for a while, you may even remember to connect first and correct the misbehavior after. There is one more very important step to take to help the whole family thrive as well.
If you are dealing with a lot of misbehavior or feel like you child just isn’t listening to your guidance, you may be building up some resentment towards your child. Past misbehavior may have you feeling on edge about future behaviors. You may feel tempted to lecture and recall past mistakes when misbehavior repeats.
The problem is if we don’t extend forgiveness and by that I mean, let that unhelpful behavior be addressed and then let it go, resentment and disconnection take over. Resentment can lead to frustration, negative expectations, nagging and anger. It then becomes difficult to relate to your child in a calm and respectful manner when more misbehavior shows up.
When you extend forgiveness you can break that cycle.
Misbehavior becomes an opportunity for learning. Learning becomes an opportunity for growing.
It becomes easier to forgive and focus on guidance when you remember that children make many mistakes, act in childish ways, cry when upset, frustrated and overwhelmed. Children have loads and loads of energy, they are by design immature and impulsive about their choices and will for sure temporarily forget what they should “know better.”
When you know all this and are still willing to show up, guide, love, accept, forgive your child will see you as a trusted source of guidance.
Change your lens and look at misbehavior as opportunities, and in that process strive to extend forgiveness.
That day when my books flew off the shelf, my boys picked up the books, wiped up the water and we exchanged hugs. Before I could even remind them of the family rules, my boys apologized and took the ball outdoors. I let the incident go. Two days later (by asking help from their dad) my boys surprised me with a new vase and beautiful flowers. A note on the vase said “We are so sorry mom. We love you forever and ever.”
“Who your child is today is not who they will be forever.” Jane Nelson, author of the Positive Discipline
Don’t let misbehavior define your child. Forgive mistakes, accept your child for who they are today, in this moment, in this day.
—A special note —
Thank you for supporting the Positive Parenting Connection over the last five years. Our community of parents has grown and grown over the years. We are now so excited to offer you the opportunity to join our Parenting Connection Classroom. An online, interactive portal for parenting courses, always connected to the positive parenting principles you are used to finding here. I hope to see you there too.
Peace & Be Well,